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Published on Tuesday, March 24, 2020

How to help consumers navigate a world of choice

In a world of choice, less can be more, says Mike Austin, CEO and cofounder of Fresh Relevance

"In the face of the consequences of the novel coronavirus on travel, brands are understandably feeling the pressure more than ever to ensure they are being seen, heard and part of the consideration process when consumers are finally ready to book their next holiday. However, there is a risk of putting off a potential customer and impacting sales if a one-size-fits-all marketing approach is used.

Hotel or apartment? Full board or self-catering? Family friendly or child free? Travel agent or DIY? Whilst consumers certainly love the idea of a well-earned holiday, the steps to get there can sometimes feel overwhelming - even for the most seasoned of travellers or modest of staycations. We are now accustomed to having the luxury of endless options, but as the theory of 'overchoice' indicates, this might not necessarily be a good thing.

Introduced in 1970 by futurist Alvin Toffler, the concept of overchoice recognises the challenges to make a decision when presented with too many options. Given too much choice when trying to research and book a holiday, for example, can become mentally draining as the individual is forced to weigh up and compare each option against alternatives.

Our recent study into holidaymakers has indicated that less is more where choice is concerned. One in four consumers claim they would prefer to see fewer travel options that are more relevant to them, versus a long list of the generic offers. Making a purchase decision of any kind always requires confidence - even more so when it has a higher price tag attached, as is often the case when booking travel. Being bombarded with irrelevant options is not likely to help build this customer confidence. On the contrary, brands are likely to scare off a consumer completely.

Showing a consumer that we understand them by providing a relevant and personalised experience at every stage of the booking process is critical to building the relationship. And where there are multiple options on offer, a marketer's aim must be to make suggestions that are based on insight and stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Despite this, our study found that a quarter of consumers feel frustrated by the irrelevant marketing content they receive from the travel industry - whether it's sending a customer deals for the latest European clubbing destinations when their previous bookings have been for long-haul family destinations, sharing a range of holidays outside of a usual price point, or sending offers valid for a season that a customer has never booked a trip in.

If it's not right, it will get ignored. Sharing something that isn't going to be helpful to them is likely to dent trust in the relationship, making them less likely to return when researching their next trip. With so much choice, a customer can afford to be fleeting when brand loyalty is concerned.

Related to this, 41% of consumers admitted that they would make a repeat booking with a travel company that caters to their likes and needs. Customers are smart and fully aware of how valuable their data is - and with that comes expectations around how a brand engages with them. The lesson for marketers is clear; leverage customer insight to provide an experience that is tailor-made for them and makes the offer irresistible.

Consumers ultimately want brands to be helpful and to make their lives easier - particularly when it comes to researching and booking travel arrangements. Whilst we might love feeling empowered by having a choice, at the heart we are looking for the one option that stands out and fits our needs. Marketers who understand what an individual wants will be able to provide an experience - and choice - that is engaging and gives them the confidence to book again and again.

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